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Oxford English Dictionary relaunched online

Oxford English Dictionary relaunched online

13 December 2010

600,000 words … 3 million quotations … more than 1000 years of the English language.

New pathways through the story of English shed light on the evolution of our language.

The relaunch of the OED Online sees the first ever online publication of the Historical Thesaurus of the OED, now fully integrated into the OED Online.  

If Prince William had been asking Kate Middleton to marry him three hundred years ago, he might well have asked her to join giblets, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, which is relaunched online today by Oxford University Press.

Alternatively he might have suggested that they buckle, a word used by the poet, John Dryden, in 1693, meaning to unite oneself in wedlock.

And if people had been looking for clues for the date for the Royal wedding, then they could have checked one of the OED Online’s many sources, the author JG Lockhart who, in 1823, declared that “May… is the only month that nobody in the north country ever thinks of buckling in”.

And since the answer was yes to being buckled, then no doubt Kate Middleton is feeling happy or eadi (from 825), seely (1272) or roseate (1787).

The Oxford English Dictionary is the only English dictionary that aims to trace the first known use of every sense of every word in the English language. It has been the definitive record of the language since it was first published in 1884.

Now, ten years after it first appeared online, the OED Online, Oxford University Press’s oldest online reference text, is being relaunched. The new site will give readers full electronic access to the Historical Thesaurus of the OED – the first comprehensive historical thesaurus ever produced for any language, which shows words grouped according to meaning throughout the huge and varied vocabulary of English. Readers can take a journey of discovery from their first click through textual, visual and graphical links, and enhance their own understanding of the English language across the globe.

The relaunched OED Online will also give readers unparalleled access to the hundreds of thousands of revisions the OED lexicographers have made to the Dictionary over the last decade.

Searching the new OED Online reveals:
The origins of our everyday language that demonstrates that, sometimes, all is not quite it seems:
Search for recession and you’ll find it first appears in 1606 when it was used to describe “a temporary suspension of work or activity”; in 1614 there are references to it meaning “a desertion of party principles”.A second definition, “the action of ceding back; a territory that has been ceded back” appears in 1832, but it is not until 1903 that a newspaper refers to a recession in an economic context. Coalition has been with us since at least the mid seventeenth century when, more often than not, it referred to scientific observations – “The Coalition of several Corpuscles into one visible Body” (Robert Boyle - The origine of formes and qualities, according to the corpuscular philosophy). And on a lighter note, Ann Widdecombe might like to know that the word dance has been with us for at least seven centuries, although by 1545, it was quite clear that to lead (a person) a dance was to lead (him or her) in a wearying, perplexing, or disappointing course and to cause him to undergo exertion or worry with no adequate result.

The new search facilities in the OED Online will lead you to:
The influence of writers on the English language:
From a list of the top 1000 sources cited in the OED, you can browse the list of writers, historians, chroniclers, poets and dramatists from the Venerable Bede (“amanse” – to excommunicate, anathematize) to Dylan Thomas (“dogdayed” and “nibcocked”) and Len Deighton (“fever pitch”) and whose works provide the first evidence of a word, or the meaning of a word, in English.

Other prominent writers whose work has shaped the language include:
George Orwell (583 quotations) - as well as the famous “doublethink” and “Newspeak”, he is also the source for “bureaucratize” and “soft centre”; PG Wodehouse (1730 quotations) - from “crispish” to “zippiness”, “cuppa” to “whiffled” Evelyn Waugh (579 quotations) – “poping” (conversion to Roman Catholicism) Virginia Woolf (580 quotations) – “nibful” and “scrolloping”

The many languages that have helped to shape English:
From apathy to zest, many thousands of French words have been absorbed into the English language. Newly published in December are fully revised entries for many major words of French origin, including action, animal, class, crime, intelligence, society, and universe From abseil to zeitgeist – more than 3000 English words originated in modern German. In the letter A alone you’ll find allergy, ambivalence, angst, antibody, and aspirin anorak and muktuk (the skin and outer blubber of a whale) from the Eskimo Inuit language kipper – from Dharuk, an Australian Aboriginal language, meaning a young man From aikido to zen and from zaitech back to anime, the Japanese language has contributed hundreds of words to English: among them, bonsai, futon, karaoke, manga, reiki, Sudoku, and sushi

The influence of the famous and infamous on our language:
There are thousands of people whose names have entered the English language, such as Alexander (the great or the technique). Thatcherite appeared three years before the Conservative General Election victory in 1979, and the first recorded use of Blairite is from 1993, four years before he became Prime Minister.

How the English have insulted each other over the centuries:
The 18th century saw around 150 new derogatory words introduced into the language (such as bean eater, brattery, namby-pamby, and Frenchy); that more than doubled in the 19th century (bint, cantabank, geek, meathead, and nincompoopiana) only to be exceeded between 1900 and 1999 with 440 derogatory phrases, from arty farty, batty and bean counter to scroddy, shoegazer and spod.

Other new features in the OED Online include:

Timelines which show the first appearances of words and meanings over 1,000 years. Readers can browse timelines to see peaks and troughs of word formation through history – when words have arrived from other cultures, for example, or developed in a subject area such as law, science, or the military. Or they can turn any list of OED search results into their own timeline at the click of a button ‘About this entry’ pages which give all kinds of background information and links, including word-timelines which chart the rise and fall of words. Over their lifetimes the fortunes of words can vary through association with significant scientific or social change. The OED’s entry for digital, for example, shows that, despite being considered a seemingly modern term, the word itself has a 600-year history dating back to the fifteenth century The advanced search features allow visitors to understand how language has developed through time. You can search or sift through results in many ways, including by: date, to see when words entered the English language. There are over 450 words celebrating their centenary this year, for which first use has been traced back to 1910, including seemingly modern terminology such as ‘cheerio’, ‘klaxon’ and ‘keystroke’ geographical region, to see where words originate or have particular meanings usage, to find words are used in slang, colloquial, derogatory, humorous or other ways subject, from Accounting to Zoology – via Sport, where ‘sledging’ (abusing batsmen to put them off) has been prevalent in Australian cricket slang since at least 1977

Free features and articles on English updated and added monthly from writers and scholars, on subjects including this month the rise of global English; genes and genetics: the language of scientific discovery; and the scandal-strewn history of –gate after Watergate. Also on the public pages of the OED Online, words of the day and news
Links through to the award-winning Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, other Oxford Dictionaries and further scholarly resources

John Simpson, Chief Editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, comments,
"With the relaunched site, the OED Online is no longer a resource you approach just for information about a word. Through intensive research in both past and present-day usage we are rewriting the story of our constantly changing language. Now the interweaving of the Historical Thesaurus of the OED and other linking features, as well as the ongoing revisions made by OED lexicographers, ensure that readers can take a journey through the language – from their first point of contact on through textual, visual, or graphical links which all help to illuminate our understanding of the language, culture, and history of English speakers around the world.”

The Oxford English Dictionary is widely acknowledged to be the most authoritative and comprehensive record of the English language in the world, tracing the evolution and use of more than 600,000 words through 3 million quotations.

OED Online gives you not only the latest text of the full Oxford English Dictionary, but also, from December 2010, the Historical Thesaurus of the OED, and new ways to explore the English language.

The Oxford English Dictionary was first published in ten volumes in 1884. A second edition was published just over a century later in 1989, when its size had doubled to some 59 million words in twenty volumes.

A few years earlier and with considerable foresight, a team of Oxford lexicographers had begun to digitise the Dictionary – a task that was estimated would take a single person 120 years to complete. In March 2000, the OED Online was launched, a pioneering online resource where readers could find the history of individual words, and of the language, traced through 3 million quotations, from classic literature and specialist periodicals to films scripts and cookery books.

Free trials and subscribing to the OED Online
Free trials of all Oxford Dictionary online products are available to institutions. Librarians and central resource coordinators can register for a trial at
The Oxford English Dictionary Online is available by subscription to institutions and individuals worldwide. Many university and institutional libraries subscribe to the OED Online.

Free public library access
Nearly all public libraries in England, Scotland, and Wales — and all in Northern Ireland—subscribe to the Oxford English Dictionary online. This means you can access the dictionary, free, via your local library. Many libraries also offer remote access from home for library card holders by entering your library membership number at For further information, visit

Subscriptions Institutions: Subscription prices are based on the size and type of institution Individual subscriptions are available at £205 +VAT for a year or £53 +VAT for three months Please visit for further information

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